I purchased a new Macbook Pro (8,3) last April, and have been using it heavily for xcode development, and little else.

This morning a message popped up:

"Your Mac OS X startup disk has no more space available for application memory"

It then suggests closing applications and removing files from my startup disk.

I presume this means virtual memory, however my disk has 600.26 GB available, according to Finder. I do have a time machine backup disk attached to the computer as well, but it has 664 GB available.

What does this message mean when there is certainly plenty of disk space remaining on the primary hard drive?

I have 8GB of RAM, a 750GB hard drive, and am running OS X 10.6.8. If any of the other system info is pertinent, let me know.

  • 1
    I would reboot into safe mode (hold SHIFT when you hear the post chime at boot - let go when you see the gray apple) - it might have momentarily felt it couldn't allocate another swap file - if this is repeatable, it will be a bizarre set of circumstances with that much free space.
    – bmike
    Jul 23, 2011 at 18:53
  • @bmike Hmm, thanks, I'll try that and get back to you.
    – Adam Davis
    Jul 23, 2011 at 18:58
  • @bmike I rebooted it (not in safe mode) and will come revisit this if it happens again.
    – Adam Davis
    Jul 23, 2011 at 19:14
  • 1
    This is a typical memory leak situation. IMHO Xcode is the reason for this.
    – mspasov
    Jul 23, 2011 at 20:07
  • @mspasov Hmmm! That would indicate my software is bad, as I'd like to assume that xcode doesn't have memory leaks... right?
    – Adam Davis
    Jul 23, 2011 at 20:24

4 Answers 4


I've seen that message in programs like Photoshop that have their own virtual memory systems rather than just assuming the OS can handle RAM and memory allocation.

A reboot should clear things up. (safe mode boot might be nice if you want to run a full disk repair pass and then reboot normally)

  • Interesting. I should have taken a screen shot - it gave me the whole list of open apps and a force quit button so I could close them. I assumed it was from OS X, but perhaps it wasn't. At the time I was only running xcode, safari, terminal, texedit, finder, preview, quicktime, itunes, and a few other apple apps. In fact, I closed them all (restarted finder), and the dialog remained, so I assumed it wasn't attached to an application and was a system message, but that would have been true in windows, perhaps OS X allows apps to leave dangling threads with system messages open?
    – Adam Davis
    Jul 23, 2011 at 19:24

I've had the exact same problem. Running "Repair permissions" in Disk Utility cured it.

My problem was probably caused by using CleanMyMac which messes around with booth system and app folders.


If you have a relatively new HP printer, the software that came with it can cause a massive memory leak. I have a 2 year old 27" core i7 iMac that suddenly started giving me the same error message. I tracked it down to the HP software. Once I completely removed the HP software the error never came back. HP has yet to fix this issue. http://h30434.www3.hp.com/t5/Mac-Printing-and-Scanning/HP-Device-Monitor-takes-130-of-CPU-and-800MB-of-RAM-while-idle/td-p/655701

  • Ah, this rings true - I've noticed that the HP software is causing problems as well, though not to this degree.
    – Adam Davis
    Feb 3, 2012 at 15:00

I had some marginally bad memory that would crash the system occasionally, so for that reason I put the original memory back, and since that time I haven't received this error.

So in my case it's probably related to bad RAM, as odd as that may seem.

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